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Best Cleaner for an HB Vintage


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It's been a month since the HB Vintage came home and the fingerprints and smudges are getting annoying, so figured it was time for a cleaning. To date it's mostly been wiping the strings with one of the two string cleaners and using either one of those yellow cloths from Gibson or the blue GC brand cloths they give you for free, but there are some areas on the body that feel a bit gummy (mostly areas that come into contact with the body). So far I have a few cleaning sets:

- Dunlop 65 kit (polish/cleaner combo, lemon oil, and string cleaner)

- Virtuoso (cleaner and polisher)

- MusicNomad detailer

- Kyser kit (wood polish, string cleaner, fretboard conditioner)

- Gibson guitar care kit (finishing cream, fretboard conditioner, and metal cleaner)

However, after reading an older thread about cleaning it seems most or all of those cleaners/polishers will make the guitar shiny, which is the exact opposite of what I want. I also saw several people mention letting the finish set and discourage cleaning for a period of time. Are there any recommended cleaners that will remove dirt without adding shine?

 

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You probably don't want to use Virtuoso products on a new guitar. It will end up glossy, even though these are superb products.  As has been mentioned, a damp soft rag is a good starting point.

I have used a cloth dampened with naphtha, a mild solvent which appears to be safe for nitro lacquer finishes, for cleaning sticky areas on lacquered surfaces such as Gibson guitar bodies and necks.  After removing stickiness, you might have to gently wipe down surrounding areas with naphtha as well to even out the finish if you see local changes in gloss in the areas you cleaned.

Do not use a soaked rag: dampened should do it. 

Wipe dry afterwards with a dry soft rag.

When I do a major cleanup on an old lacquer-finished guitar, I usually start with naphtha  to remove most surface grunge before moving on to more aggressive cleaners/polishes such as Virtuoso.

By the way, make sure your hands are clean before picking up your guitar. I almost always wear a long-sleeve cotton T-shirt when I play to keep body oils off the guitar. Deodorants on your underarm may well leave residue on the guitar which can be hard to remove and might damage the finish over time.

At the same time, play the guitar, but give it some care, as you seem to be doing.

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5 hours ago, J45fan said:

A damp soft rag works fine.

Thanks! Was hoping to use something a bit more thorough since it's technically never been cleaned, but since a damp cloth seems to be the most recommended I won't chance it with anything more aggressive...at least for the time being

4 hours ago, j45nick said:

You probably don't want to use Virtuoso products on a new guitar. It will end up glossy, even though these are superb products.  As has been mentioned, a damp soft rag is a good starting point.

I have used a cloth dampened with naphtha, a mild solvent which appears to be safe for nitro lacquer finishes, for cleaning sticky areas on lacquered surfaces such as Gibson guitar bodies and necks.  After removing stickiness, you might have to gently wipe down surrounding areas with naphtha as well to even out the finish if you see local changes in gloss in the areas you cleaned.

Do not use a soaked rag: dampened should do it. 

Wipe dry afterwards with a dry soft rag.

When I do a major cleanup on an old lacquer-finished guitar, I usually start with naphtha  to remove most surface grunge before moving on to more aggressive cleaners/polishes such as Virtuoso.

By the way, make sure your hands are clean before picking up your guitar. I almost always wear a long-sleeve cotton T-shirt when I play to keep body oils off the guitar. Deodorants on your underarm may well leave residue on the guitar which can be hard to remove and might damage the finish over time.

At the same time, play the guitar, but give it some care, as you seem to be doing.

5 different types of cleaners and water alone is my best bet, go figure lol. Naptha seems to get a lot of good recommendations from those that use it and long time guitar players seem to swear by its effectiveness. I'm wondering how it will do with the thin kind of matte nitro finish (not sure if Vintage Limited finish is also VOS). 

I hear you loud and clear about deodorant and the finish; a couple of days of playing shirtless and noticed a few specs on the top of the body that thankfully came out so now I always wear a shirt. Hand washing (and stretching) is a ritual before practicing though I must admit the Elixir nanoweb strings which are just 3 days shy of a month already show a decent amount of wear - not complaining since they sound pretty nice now they've opened, but they certainly aren't as pretty as a new set of strings. 

3 hours ago, zombywoof said:

Yup, a soft cotton rag slightly dampened with distilled water.  I pretty much only have to go at a guitar with Virtuoso cleaner when it first comes into my hands.  That 1920 L3 was particularly nasty.

I was hoping the Virtuoso cleaner would be gentle enough to not add shine since this will be it's first real cleaning since I brought it home and quite likely the first time it's been cleaned since it was manufactured. I have several of those yellow Gibson polishing cloths, will those work as well?

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4 hours ago, hummingbirdguy said:

 

I was hoping the Virtuoso cleaner would be gentle enough to not add shine since this will be it's first real cleaning since I brought it home and quite likely the first time it's been cleaned since it was manufactured. I have several of those yellow Gibson polishing cloths, will those work as well?

Virtuoso Cleaner is extremely powerful. The polish is what really brings out the gloss, however.

To give you an idea, when I bought my 2010 L-OO  Legend (barely used) in about 2011, the boutique dealer I bought it from indicated the surface had what appeared like a lot  of polishing scratches, so the price was marked down maybe $500 from the expected price. I ordered it anyway, because the price was right and I was frustrated after a year at looking at what I thought were overpriced vintage versions.

When the guitar arrived, I realized that the "polishing scratches" were actually a not-particularly-well-executed VOS finish. I went after it with Virtuoso cleaner, then polish, and ended up removing 90% of the "scratches", resulting in a finish that was not ultra- high gloss, but did not show significant scratches. That finish was pretty much what I was after.

I have cleaned several vintage Gibsons with Virtuoso, achieving almost frightening results.  I had a lovely sunburst 1968 ES 335-12 with virtually no checking, and it look like maybe a lightly-used 10-year-old guitar rather than an almost 50-year-old guitar by the time I finished. The luthier who did a neck re-set on it thought I had buffed it out.

The one-owner 1947 L-7 I had got a similar treatment. That one owner had been a chain smoker for the almost 60 years he owned and played it, and the guitar was filthy beyond belief, and stunk to high heaven. I had to throw the original gig bag away, because my wife wouldn't let it in the house.

I started out with naphtha on that before switching to Virtuoso, wiping down every accessible inch of the guitar with naphtha, inside and out.

A word of warning. As they say on the label, do not use Virtuoso  products on surfaces with significant  lacquer checking. The cleaner dries to a fine white haze, and will penetrate cracks so that the checked surface looks like a spiderweb.

I can vouch for the fact that the effect is almost impossible to  remove. I spent days with naphtha on cotton swabs trying to undo what I had done, with only moderate success. The gloss was impressive, however.

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The thing most people don't realize about polishes is that they actually remove some of the finish revealing a clean shiny layer underneath.  The Gibson and other brand cotton cloths seem so soft it's hard to imagine they would do any damage, but they can leave swirl marks.  Microfiber cloth is the best way to go and really just dampened to remove dirt and fingerprints.  When you want a high glossy shine Virtuoso is great, but if you don't want gloss/shine just stick with a damp cloth.  Then wipe dry with another clean microfiber cloth.

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Youtube really has just about everything! I found a couple of videos demonstrations of Virtuoso cleaner, one of which was on a satin finish. Though the cleaner didn't seem to add high gloss comparable to an HB Standard it did add some shine (from what I could tell from a 9 year old 480p video). So to everyone that's commented thank you all for your invaluable information, when many of you indicated there would be a shine I was concerned there would be a degree of glossiness which I'm absolutely trying to avoid. In the end, the two yellow Gibson cloths - one damp and the other dry - removed the fingerprints and smudges...until I touched it again 😄! A great big thank you all for your help! 

On 12/24/2020 at 7:59 PM, j45nick said:

Virtuoso Cleaner is extremely powerful. The polish is what really brings out the gloss, however.

To give you an idea, when I bought my 2010 L-OO  Legend (barely used) in about 2011, the boutique dealer I bought it from indicated the surface had what appeared like a lot  of polishing scratches, so the price was marked down maybe $500 from the expected price. I ordered it anyway, because the price was right and I was frustrated after a year at looking at what I thought were overpriced vintage versions.

When the guitar arrived, I realized that the "polishing scratches" were actually a not-particularly-well-executed VOS finish. I went after it with Virtuoso cleaner, then polish, and ended up removing 90% of the "scratches", resulting in a finish that was not ultra- high gloss, but did not show significant scratches. That finish was pretty much what I was after.

I have cleaned several vintage Gibsons with Virtuoso, achieving almost frightening results.  I had a lovely sunburst 1968 ES 335-12 with virtually no checking, and it look like maybe a lightly-used 10-year-old guitar rather than an almost 50-year-old guitar by the time I finished. The luthier who did a neck re-set on it thought I had buffed it out.

The one-owner 1947 L-7 I had got a similar treatment. That one owner had been a chain smoker for the almost 60 years he owned and played it, and the guitar was filthy beyond belief, and stunk to high heaven. I had to throw the original gig bag away, because my wife wouldn't let it in the house.

I started out with naphtha on that before switching to Virtuoso, wiping down every accessible inch of the guitar with naphtha, inside and out.

A word of warning. As they say on the label, do not use Virtuoso  products on surfaces with significant  lacquer checking. The cleaner dries to a fine white haze, and will penetrate cracks so that the checked surface looks like a spiderweb.

I can vouch for the fact that the effect is almost impossible to  remove. I spent days with naphtha on cotton swabs trying to undo what I had done, with only moderate success. The gloss was impressive, however.

Thank you for explaining how powerful the cleaner is! After reading the bottles I was certain the polish wasn't what I was after, but held out hope the cleaner wouldn't go to waste. Does the shine from cleaning stay on for months, as the manufacturer might suggest?

Also, I get a kick out of seeing guitar transformations, did you happen to take any before and after photos? 

ETA: Btw, it just dawned on me you may think my HB is a vintage model - as in it was produced decades ago,  but it's a Vintage model (made in 2019) LOL ...gotta love Gibson and their naming system. The profile pic is my 'bird

On 12/25/2020 at 1:19 PM, Twang Gang said:

The thing most people don't realize about polishes is that they actually remove some of the finish revealing a clean shiny layer underneath.  The Gibson and other brand cotton cloths seem so soft it's hard to imagine they would do any damage, but they can leave swirl marks.  Microfiber cloth is the best way to go and really just dampened to remove dirt and fingerprints.  When you want a high glossy shine Virtuoso is great, but if you don't want gloss/shine just stick with a damp cloth.  Then wipe dry with another clean microfiber cloth.

Thanks for the microfiber tip, since the cloths did indeed leave swirl marks that took a good bit of breathing and wiping to remove. I realized early on that polishes were not at all what I want, especially for the type of finish, though I did see a satin/matte cleaner made by Taylor that seems interesting - though it's hard not to think it's just a way to bring in a some extra bucks. 

 

On 12/25/2020 at 3:45 PM, L00uie said:

I use the music nomad detailer sparingly, a few pumps onto the cloth for the whole thing. 

I have their polish, which I got for “tacky” feel on the back of the neck. 1 or 2 treatments and the tacky feel is gone. 

Just checked and I have the detailer, not their polish. Do you also use it on matte finish guitars to good effect? 

 

On 12/27/2020 at 8:14 AM, kidblast said:

I hate to add yet another "Try THIS" post, but Gerlitz Smudge Off sounds like just what you are looking for.

At this point it seems I have a little bit of everything lol. Thanks for sharing though. The description says polish throughout and I can't risk it. Though the goal of removing fingerprints and smudges is exactly what I'm after. Someone above recommended Music Nomad's Detailer and I saw a cleaner specifically for matte finishes from Taylor that I'll look into.

Edited by hummingbirdguy
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